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New home registrations reach post-recession high

The number of homes being built in the UK may have lagged behind the numbers needed, but the frustrations of everyone from the government down to aspiring first-time buyers have at least been eased a little by signs this year that the numbers being constricted are rising significantly.

New quarterly statistics published by the National Homes Building Council have provided a further indication of an upward trend. These revealed that housebuilders registered 37,936 properties in the three months to the end of September. The significance of this figure is not only that it was six per cent up on the tally of 35,946 for the equivalent period of 2016, but also that it represented the highest third quarter figure since the economic crisis nearly a decade ago.  

NHBC chief executive Steve Wood said: "We have seen encouraging growth in terms of the number of new homes being registered over the last three months, across many parts of the country.

"With demand for high quality new homes as strong as ever, this is positive news for the industry and prospective homebuyers, particularly in light of the current political and economic uncertainties."

The figure was far from even, with only seven of the 12 UK regions recording more new homes than in the third quarter of 2016. However, some of the areas that did witnessed massive increases in building. There was a 50 per cent rise in Scotland, a 42 per cent jump in the East Midlands and a 34 per cent increase in the north east. The areas where numbers fell were the northwest, Yorkshire and the Humber, south west, London and Northern Ireland.  

London's fall was a significant drop of 35.4 per cent, while Northern Ireland was down more than 25 per cent. Among the reasons some areas may have seen increases and the others falls was the changing balance between private sector and affordable sector registrations. The former was up nine per cent from 26,611 to 29,083, whereas the latter fell from 9,335 to 8,853.

A rise in the number of homes being built is good news for insulation fitters as well as others involved in the construction and renovation sector, as it means plenty of work for them. For landlords, particularly in the affordable sector, it remains important to be compliant with modern building regulations and the energy performance levels these need to achieve. This is particularly the case in view of the introduction of new regulations banning the renting out of the worst performing homes from next April. 

However, new homes do have far better energy performance than old ones, the Home Building council stated last week. It produced data showing that 84.4 per cent of new homes meet energy performance certificate levels A or B, something only 2.2 per cent of older properties manage to achieve. 

This reflects the improved use of insulation and a range of other steps taken to ensure the improved energy efficiency of homes, with the HBF estimating the difference is worth over £600 a year in energy bill savings.

All that means Britain's housing stock is becoming increasingly well insulated, but it also means that homes where the level of provision is lacking will increasingly stand out and be left behind, either because weaker energy performance will mean they are unpopular, or illegal to let out. As Britain builds more homes and takes steps to retrofit existing ones, it may be the age of poor insulation is finally starting to be left behind.